When the Washington Nationals take the field for their first game, they’ll have at least five players in tow who were not intended to be on the Opening Day roster. The long arm of the coronavirus sent the beginning of the season into a tizzy and now that the dust has settled, with replacement players in place, we can officially get underway.
While the old adage is, a player can’t lose his job to injury (tell Wally Pipp that), or potential COVID exposure for that matter, if one of the call ups earns the chance to stay, they should.
With a handful of fresh faces in town for the Nationals, Yadiel Hernandez has the best chance to stick around when everyone is cleared from COVID protocol.
Of the five names listed, Yadiel Hernandez has the best chance to stick around when everyone is cleared. There may have to be some roster shuffling to allow for his stay.
Hernandez hit .469 in 32 at-bats during spring training and was one of the last players reassigned at the end of camp. His BB/K ratio was 3/5, and he had four extra-base hits during his time with the team. The knock on Hernandez is he doesn’t play all outfield positions, where fourth-outfielder Andrew Stevenson can.
How do you keep a guy out of the league if they hit? If Hernandez gets a couple of starts during his stay and produces, or even appears as a pinch hitter, and gets the job done, the Nationals will find a spot for him. In baseball a team rides the hot hand, they don’t send the hot hand back to the minors.
Problem is, where does Hernandez fit? Schwarber will reclaim the starting job when he comes back. Harrison isn’t going to the minors. The other two names listed are players with specialty positions. Harrison can play the outfield, as can Hernan Perez. Jordy Mercer, has not in his career. Mercer hit .222 hit a .549 OPS in the spring. Hernandez had an OPS twice that. Yes, spring statistics don’t mean much. Mercer has a career OPS of .702. Hernandez has hit at every level he’s been.
Sam Clay, the ground ball specialist, could find a way to stay on the team, though his inexperience is his achilles heel. He has never pitched in the majors. Garcia will be returned to AAA to play everyday, and Barrera may not see any time in the majors, and probably will be jumped by Jonathon Lucroy at some point. McGowin may have a leg up on Clay, as he’s played in the majors before, and had a decent spring (striking out 12 in 9.2 innings, allowing three earned runs).
If there is a player who is going to stick around once everyone is out of COVID protocol, I believe Yadiel Hernandez is that man.